Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

28 February 2014

Oscar Nominees 2014: Part 13 of 14

The Wind Rises (風立ちぬ)
1 Nomination
  • Animated Feature
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Cast: Hideaki Anno, Miori Takimoto, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Masahiko Nishimura, Stephen Alpert, Keiko Takeshita, Mirai Shida, Jun Kunimura, Shinobu Otake, Nomura Mansai (except that they all spoke English when I saw it, so: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Martin Short, Stanley Tucci, Werner Herzog, William H. Macy, Jennifer Grey)

This is apparently not going to be (as has been reported) Miyazaki's final film. We should all breathe a sigh of relief at this. The subject matter of The Wind Rises is not Miyazaki's usual fanciful content, so I was sort of worried that The Wind Rises wouldn't be as magical as his previous films. I oughtn't to have worried one bit. This is a film about an artist, and his visions of what he can create are told through beautiful, fanciful dreams that feel like nothing but magic. It is gorgeous. The score is beautiful (and really should've taken Philomena's spot – who remembers that score?), but what's really on show here are Miyazaki's beautiful vistas, intriguing ways of looking at things, memorable quirky characters, and fanciful storytelling. This is a director who tells us that a couple is falling in love by having them fly paper airplanes to one another from the ground to a third-story window. The planes in flight are breathtaking, and the film itself becomes about what it is like to love something, to dedicate your life to something only to have it destroyed by something else (the military, illness). This is beautiful stuff and is easily my favorite in the Animated Feature category, not that that means it's going to win; it hasn't a prayer.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win:N/A
My Rating: #21 out of 82

Ernest et Célestine (Ernest & Celestine)
1 Nomination
  • Animated Feature
Cast: Lambert Wilson, Pauline Brunner, Dominique Maurin, Anne-Marie Loop

I don't get to see this before the Academy Awards, and my bet is that most people won't have seen it. It, frankly, looks adorable, and captures the look of the children's books on which it is based (the books are by Gabrielle Vincent and you can see them – some are even translated into English – here). French animation has soared in this category recently, and it has become a safe bet for a nomination almost every single year, though (it would appear) not for the win. Films like Une Vie de Chat, Persepolis, and Sylvain Chomet's superb L'Illusionniste and Les Triplettes de Belleville have all gotten nominations, but none has gone on to the win (despite L'Illusionniste's superiority to almost all of the films – animated or not – that were released in 2010). Ernest et Célestine is released in the U.S. today, so if you live in a city bigger than mine you may have better luck than I catching this picture. 
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: Not ranked

The Croods
1 Nomination
  • Animated Feature
Cast:Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman

I liked this film more than most of my friends did, and I liked it mostly for the kinds of lovely visuals you can see in the image above. The Croods is a silly little story, with characters who are, for the most part, unattractive (they are cro-magnons, after all). The plot covers a family who are running away from the splitting of the supercontinent Pangaea. It is, more importantly a story of learning new things – adapting to new technologies and new ideas. It is about parents learning to listen to their kids and kids learning to listen to their parents. In the ideology of this film, the parents don't know the best way to do things, but they have much bigger hearts than the children. All of this is sort of sweet, and the tone is tongue-in-cheek enough that it didn't make me groan too heavily at any point. And then there is the art design! It is gorgeous. There are millions of bizarre little creatures and plants that look like something out of a prettified Hieronymus Bosch or Pieter Bruegel painting. The Croods is worth watching for these inventive visuals alone.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #60 out of 82

25 February 2014

Oscar Nominees 2014: Part 12 of 14

Avant Que de Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything)
1 Nomination
  • Live-action Short Film
Director: Xavier Legrand
Cast: Léa Drucker, Anne Benoît, Miljan Chatelain, Mathilde Auneveux, Denis Ménochet, Claire Dumas, Stéphane Shoukroun

This is probably the longest of the short films in this group, and it is my favorite. Which is not to say that it is going to win because I rather imagine that it won't, but this is superb filmmaking. The (very handsome) Xavier Legrand is known primarily as an actor, but he has crafted an elegant little mystery that shifts very quickly from a confusing series of images to a taut and dangerous thriller. Excellent.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: Live-action Short Film
My Rating: Not ranked

1 Nomination
  • Live-action Short Film
Director: Anders Walter
Cast: Casper Crump, Pelle Falk Krusbæk, Marijana Janković

This is the sure-fire winner of the Oscar as far as I can tell. It is a beautiful crowd-pleaser of a feature that has two things the Academy loves: storytelling and sick children. This story seemed a little worn out to my mind, but I don't think this will hamper its award chances. Helium boasts some gorgeously designed fantasy sequences and some rather beautiful acting from the young Pelle Falk Krusbæk. And, to top it all off, the film's final shot is a heartbreaking stroke of genius.
Will Win: Live-action Short Film
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: Not ranked

The Voorman Problem
1 Nomination
  • Live-action Short Film
Director: Mark Gill
Cast: Martin Freeman, Tom Hollander, Elisabeth Gray, Simon Griffiths

This is quirky and cute but not much more than that. I think it is supposed to be a thing where we question reality or something like that, but I just ended up thinking it was like a story two dudes come up with on a weekend. I don't mean to denigrate it; it's just that there really isn't much to this picture. It is about god, I suppose, or our arrogance about our place in the world. Or maybe it is about Belgium... not really my thing.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: Not ranked

Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn't Me)
1 Nomination
  • Live-action Short Film
Director: Esteban Crespo
Cast: Alejandra Lorente, Juan Tojaka, Babou Cham, Gustavo Salmerón, Alita Rodgers Jr., Mariano Nguema

This film is about child soldiers somewhere in Africa, but the film doesn't really have much going for it. It is a kind of white-savior movie about Spanish people who kidnap child soldiers and take them to safety. But they get caught doing this and are (mostly) killed. War Witch treated this very interesting subject matter with much more nuance and style than this short film can, but more importantly than that, I am not sure what this film is trying to say at all. That forcing children to wield weapons and murder others is bad? I mean, yes, but who would disagree?
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: Not ranked

Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa?
(Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)
1 Nomination
  • Live-action Short Film
Director: Selma Vilhunen
Cast: Joanna Haartti, Santtu Karvonen, Ranja Omaheimo, Ella Toivoniem

This is delightfully funny and a refreshing change of pace from the mostly serious other nominees. Vilhunen's film is about a couple who is late for a wedding and has lost the gift and whose children have nothing to wear. It is a madcap bit of silliness and it is delightful, particularly when Joanna Haartti's heel turns and she drops their makeshift gift (which is a hideous plant) and falls to the ground. Fun stuff.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: Not ranked

21 February 2014

Oscar Nominees 2014: Part 11 of 14

Bad Grandpa
1 Nomination
  • Makeup
Director: Jeff Tremaine
Cast: Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll, Georgina Cates, Jill Kill, Greg Harris, Spike Jonze, Catherine Keener

Because the makeup and hairstyling branch releases a shortlist of possible nominees before the actual nominees are named, everybody knew that this film would be a contender for Best Makeup. And the makeup branch does its own thing; nearly every year it nominates terrible films for Oscars, so that we can say the Oscar-nominated film The Wolfman or Norbit or Click or The Time Machine. It isn't even that old of a category, naming three nominees regularly only since 1985. Still it isn't the least respected category in the Academy (we'll get to that one) and they produce plenty of cool nominees in addition to their stinkers – films like The Fly, Beetlejuice, Dracula, Shadow of a Vampire, The Cell, Hoffa, Batman Returns, and The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen were nominated in precious few other categories, but they got makeup nominations. That is a lot of prologue to say that, well, Bad Grandpa isn't a bad movie. In fact, it is quite hilarious, and the makeup is truly excellent, fooling not only movie audiences but people in the same room with the actors who were covered in makeup. I don't really think it can win against the Best-picture-nominated Dallas Buyers Club, but it ought to.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: Makeup
My Rating: #38 out of 81

The children are so sad they didn't get nominated.
Alone yet Not Alone
1 Nomination
  • Original Song: Bruce Broughton (Silverado)
Director: Ray Brengston, George D. Escobar
Cast: Kelly Greyson, Hayley Lovitt, Clay Walker, Jenn Gotzon, Ozzie Torres, Tony Wade, Joseph Gray, Joanie Stewart, Robert Piece, Natalie Racoosin, Cassie Brennan

As a poster somewhere else put it: Alone yet Not Alone was nominated yet not nominated. This film that no one had ever heard of before got a surprise Best Original Song nomination on January 21st, but it since been deemed ineligible because of ethics violations in its advertising. You can read the Academy's statement about the situation here. Basically what happened is that Broughton, who is an executive member of the music branch and has served on the board of Governors for eighteen years sent out emails to everyone in the music branch drawing their attention to the fact that he had written one of the songs eligible for nomination, blatantly using his influence to get his own song nominated over other contenders (including songs from The Great Gatsby, The Croods, Monsters University, The Butler, Austenland, The Hobbit #2, etc.). Many people were hoping for surprise nominations here – imagine the song "Amen" from All Is Lost getting a nomination or the excellent "So You Know What It's Like" from Short Term 12. My point is that a song nomination could mean a lot, especially for musical films like The Sapphires or Black Nativity. The Academy is not naming a replacement nominee for this category, and they really ought to have done so, it seems to me, just for the sake of fairness. (You can read Broughton's own David-and-Goliath take on the situation here.) Broughton besmirched an already embarrassing category even further with his stunt, and the decision to rescind but not replace simply seems like the Academy wants to live with the stain.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: Not ranked

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
1 Nomination
  • Original Song: Bono (Gangs of New York) & Adam Clayton (Gangs of New York) & The Edge (Gangs of New York) & Larry Mullen (Gangs of New York)
Director: Justin Chadwick
Cast: Idris Elba, Naomie Harris, Tony Kgoroge, Riaad Moosa, Zolani Mkiva, Simo Mogwaza, Fana Mokoena, Thapelo Mokoena, Jamie Bartlett, Deon Lotz, Terry Pheto

This is weird. Not because U2 was nominated for its second Oscar – that was sort of expected – but I guess because the song doesn't seem related in any way to the rest of the music in the film, most conspicuously Alex Heffes' score. The song plays over the end credits, like many Oscar-nominated tunes, so that is fine, but I guess I just felt as though it had nothing to do with the movie. Anyway, the Academy will have U2 perform at the Oscars now, and Harvey Weinstein is a mastermind for making all of that happen. The thing is: if Mandela as a film is not that interesting (and it, quite frankly, goes on forever), it still does seem odd that the only people honored for the movie were not involved in its production and simply wrote a song that was tacked onto the film's end credits. Also, I am just not that into this tune. (And I actually like the U2 song for Gangs of New York.)
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #59 out of 81

18 February 2014

Oscar Nominees 2014: Part 10 of 14

La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty)
1 Nomination
  • Foreign Language Film: Italy (Don't Tell, Life Is Beautiful, The Starmaker, Mediteranneo, Open Doors, Cinema Paradiso, The Family, Three Brothers, To Forget Venice, Viva Italia!, A Special Day, Seven Beauties, Scent of a Woman, Amarcord, Investigation of a Citizen above Suspicion, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, Girl with a Pistol, The Battle of Algiers, Marriage Italian Style, Yesterday Today and Tomorrow, 8 1/2, The Four Days of Naples, The Great War, Kapò, Big Deal on Madonna Street, Nights of Cabiria, La Strada, The Bicycle Thief, The Walls of Malapaga, Shoeshine)
Cast: Toni Servillo, Sabrina Ferilli, Carlo Verdone, Galatea Ranzi, Pamela Villoresi, Carlo Buccirosso, Iaia Forte, Giovanna Vignola, Giusi Merli, Sonia Gessner, Luca Marinelli

I have written about this enough times, I suppose. It is the best movie of the year, and there is simply nothing like it. I have even seen it a second time. I had a chance to see the film in the local IMAX theatre and I jumped at the chance. It hit me just as hard the second time, and my friends and I talked about it for days afterward. You will notice that Italy's previous nominations include films by Fellini, Tornatore, De Sica, Pontecorvo, Risi, Monicelli, and Scola (but strangely not Antonioni, Bertolucci, or Bellocchio): Sorrentino is in good company. And if some of the Italian masters have been left off of this list, the film to which La Grande Bellezza has most often been compared is La Dolce Vita, which also missed out on a Best Foreign Language Oscar nomination. In who's-going-to-win news, they just recently changed the rules for voting for the winner of this Oscar. Formerly, an Academy member had to see all five of the nominees in order to vote for the winner. This is no longer the case, which means that voting for the winner of Best Foreign Language film will follow the same type of group-think as the rest of the winners. This year, however, that means that the best film of the year in any language will win Best Foreign Language picture.
Will Win: Foreign Language Film
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #1 out of 81

The Broken Circle Breakdown
1 Nomination
  • Foreign Language Film: Belgium (Bullhead, Everybody's Famous, Farinelli: il Castrato, Daens, The Music Teacher, Peace in the Fields)
Cast: Johan Heldenbergh, Veerle Baetens, Nell Cattrysse

This is Belgium's second recent nomination (their most recent was the totally awesome Bullhead – check it out). I haven't seen this picture yet, but Netflix assures me it will be out on DVD on the eleventh of March, a good nine days late for the Oscars. So I will see it then, I suppose. I can tell you that this is a melodrama about a relationship between a bluegrass musician – the film is filled with Bluegrass music, in English no less – and a tattoo artist. It is based on a play by Heldenbergh and Mieke Dobbels, and Van Groeningen's film was nominated for six European film awards where Veerle Baetens won Best Actress. The film was also nominated for Best Foreign Language film at the Césars. You can watch the trailer here.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: Foreign Language Film
My Rating: Not ranked

Omar (عمر)
1 Nomination
  • Foreign Language Film: Palestine (Paradise Now)
Director: Hany Abu-Assad
Cast: Adam Bakri, Waleed Zuaiter, Leem Lubany, Baher Agbariya, Majd Bitar, Walid Abed Elsalam, David Gerson

Here's another one I haven't seen. This is Hany Abu-Assad's second nomination in this category, but the film looks, well to be honest, it doesn't look all that great. You can watch the trailer here. Omar played at Cannes in 2013 and will be released in the U.S. on the 21st. The poster features the back of Omar's head as he kisses his love-interest in the film, and above their heads are the words "An incredible love story". Apparently, they are assuming we won't watch the trailer so that we can know what the film is actually about. Actually, if you're feeling like you probably will see this film, take my advice and don't watch the trailer. It gives way too much away.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: Not ranked

L'Image Manquante (The Missing Picture)
1 Nomination
  • Foreign Language Film: Cambodia
Director: Rithy Panh
Cast: Randal Douc

This is Cambodia's first nomination ever, and it is very exciting for another reason, too. L'Image Manquante is a documentary about atrocities perpetuated by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, and this is the first time in a very long time that a documentary has been nominated for Best Foreign Language film. This is a huge deal all around. I don't think the film can win, but this nomination does demonstrate the Academy's interest in cinema from all parts of the globe. This was never in doubt, really, but there has not been a film from the Asian mainland nominated in this category for over five years. The Academy has for the last twenty years consistently ignored submissions by India, South Korea, Vietnam, China, even Hong Kong. I am not saying this is instantly going to change, but this nomination is a step in the right direction. The film is slated for release stateside on March nineteenth. You can see the trailer here.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: Not ranked

Jagten (The Hunt)
1 Nomination
  • Foreign Language Film: Denmark (A Royal Affair, In a Better World, After the Wedding, Waltzing Regitze, Pelle the Conqueror, Babette's Feast, Harry and the Butler, Paw, Qivitoq)
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Annika Wedderkopp, Thomas Bo Larsen, Susse Wold, Anne Louise Hassing, Alexandra Rapaport, Lasse Fogelstrøm

Mads Mikkelsen has starred in three of the last four nominees for Denmark in this category. Apparently it is a winning combination. Obviously, Mikkelsen is a big star, and this goes a long way to making this film as good as it is and in it getting this nomination. In fact, though, the high quality of Jagten has as much to do with the legendary director of the first Dogme 95 film, Thomas Vinterberg, as it does with Mikkelsen. Jagten is a kind of Arthur Miller's The Crucible for the twenty-first century. It is a terrifying, nail-biting witchhunt, that drove me and my roommate absolutely nuts watching it. One wants to scream at the movie screen. This film gets its hooks into you and then drags you around for a little bit. This is excellent, unsparing filmmaking, and it is totally in line with Vinterberg's other work. Denmark has won this award recently, though – for Susanne Bier's 2010 In a Better World (a much-deserved win) – and it won't be taking home the trophy this year unless there is an enormous upset.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: Foreign Language Film
My Rating: #19 out of 81

17 February 2014

Oscar Nominees 2014: Part 9 of 14

All Is Lost
1 Nomination
  • Sound Editing
Director: J.C. Chandor
Cast: Robert Redford

The talk about All Is Lost really centered on Robert Redford's acting. And I have to say that I assumed he was a shoo-in for a nomination. Older actor who never won outright (he was nominated once in 1974 for The Sting but he was awarded an honorary Oscar in 2002), and good reviews! But I think there is a bit of a curse on the person who is named Best Actor by the National Board of Review. I always think of Campbell Scott and how we all thought he was going to be a nominee for Roger Dodger all those years ago, but then it didn't happen either. They don't exactly have the best track record when it comes to such things – it is because they are so early, of course. As for the film, I found All Is Lost difficult, and I am not sure I understand what acting is in cases like these. Acting is certainly doing – I am not confused about that – but how is this doing any more impressive than the things that other actors did in their respective films? So the nomination for Sound Editing is rather a surprise, and I suspect that the love for older actors all ended up in Bruce Dern's camp this year and that explains Robert Redford's omission.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #52 out of 81

Star Trek: into Darkness
1 Nomination
  • Visual Effects
Director: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zoë Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood

I really enjoyed myself at most of the action films this summer – Star Trek, Elysium, Pacific Rim, World War Z. I even liked the Thor sequel. Star Trek was not the best of these, but I am really sold on this entire franchise. I think they are really fun. I like Chris Pine, and I think he is great in the part. But more importantly, I have been watching the old Star Trek movies. In fact, I have watched the first seven of them. They are so good. Well, as anyone who has seen these movies will tell you, the even ones are good; the odd ones mostly don't work very well. My big realization with these old movies (they begin in 1979 and the last one with the old cast is in 1991) is what a great team they are: they all have each other's numbers and have the ability to trade barbs with ease. These films are delightful for precisely this reason. And then there's William Shatner. The original Kirk is just phenomenal. This is the case of a man who knows his role perfectly and always looks as though he is having a whale of a time performing it. I am getting distracted talking about the old franchise when I should be talking about the reboot. In fact, I don't really remember this movie, and since I didn't review it, I suppose I probably won't remember it. It is a vague remake of Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan if I remember correctly, and there are lots of fun and interesting nods in the direction of the original. But Chris Pine is making the role his own, and I am excited to see the next film in the series.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #33 out of 81

Iron Man 3
1 Nomination
  • Visual Effects
Director: Shane Black
Cast: Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Don Cheadle, Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale, Rebecca Hall, Jon Favreau, Stephanie Szostak, Paul Bettany, Ty Simpkins, Dale Dickey, Miguel Ferrer

I was kind of drunk when I saw this. And I don't feel the least bit bad about it. This is allegedly the best series in the Avengers group of films – Hulk, Thor, Captain America – but I guess it just doesn't do it for me, or hasn't for a while. The first one was good, but these most recent two (and The Avengers movie) have struck me as incredibly, overwhelmingly smug, insincere, and cynical. I really like Gwyneth Paltrow, and I am happy to see her in these films, but Downey feels like he is phoning it in – everyone loves him and so he simply does not need to try – almost in a Johnny Depp kind of way. My impatience with Downey will probably never reach Depp levels, but these movies are simply not doing anything that interesting. Someone else is planning to destroy the world again. The villain has a dastardly new plan, but the plan simply isn't that great. And I am never worried about whether or not the superhero can save us all. It is just that there aren't any stakes in these films, and if (you might argue) these films are not about things like stakes or plot, but are about enjoying the pleasure of beating bad guys into the ground or laughing at smug jokes or watching explosions, then I will accept your proposal. But if this is so, then we need more beating of bad guys into the ground, and we need more explosions. More more more. Because when these movies are about plot or personal connection or (heaven help us) politics, they just can't carry their weight. Among the other Summer blockbusters this year, Iron Man 3 was out of their league, never quite managing to be special. All of the other big summer movies were better than this tired old thing.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #63 out of 81

14 February 2014

Oscar Nominees 2014: Part 8 of 14

The Invisible Woman
1 Nomination
  • Costume Design: Michael O'Connor (Jane Eyre, The Duchess)
Director: Ralph Fiennes
Cast: Felicity Jones, Fiennes, Kristin Scott Thomas, Joanna Scanlan, Tom Hollander, Perdita Weeks, Michelle Fairley, John Kavanagh, Tom Burke

I didn't review this movie, although I quite liked it, so I suppose this will have to do. Let me get the Oscar talk out of the way first: O'Connor can't win, and he's already won for The Duchess, so he doesn't need to win anyway. The film is directed by Ralph Fiennes, who also plays Charles Dickens. The film, though, is not really about Dickens; it is about his mistress Nelly, who is a fascinating character, beautifully played by Felicity Jones. The entire film, in fact, is rather excellent. It's a historical excavation – an untold story about a figure familiar to most of us – but it is done without dogmatism, without treating this untold story as a kind of key or solution to all of Dickens' work, and without the hagiography that normally attends such films. In other words, this isn't Becoming Jane or Ray. Not at all. This is, in fact, a story primarily about living with Dickens, about sort of dealing with the mess of loving a famous man in the nineteenth century. It is at times heartbreaking, and the film gives enough attention to Dickens' spurned wife (Joanna Scanlan, in the film's most brilliant performance) that one never comes to believe Dickens is perfect or justified or even right. It is a really excellent little piece. I can see why no one saw it: Fiennes isn't an Oscar-bait actor, and the film was released very late in the season (odd, that). But the film should honestly have been a contender for Screenplay and for Supporting Actress, so it is strange that there was not more buzz about it. Ah well, a good film is its own reward.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #26 out of 80

The Book Thief
1 Nomination
  • Original Score: John Williams (Lincoln, War Horse, The Adventures of Tintin, Munich, Memoirs of a Geisha, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Catch Me If You Can, Artificial Intelligence: A.I., Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, The Patriot, Angela's Ashes, Saving Private Ryan, Amistad, Sleepers, Nixon, Sabrina, Schindler's List, JFK, Home Alone, Born on the Fourth of July, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Accidental Tourist, Empire of the Sun, The Witches of Eastwick, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The River, Return of the Jedi, E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back, Superman, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Jaws, The Towering Inferno, Tom Sawyer, Cinderella Liberty, Images, The Poseidon Adventure, Fiddler on the Roof, The Reivers, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Valley of the Dolls)
Director: Brian Percival
Cast: Sophie Nélisse, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Nico Liersch, Ben Schnetzer, Barbara Auer, Rainer Bock, Carina Wiese, Oliver Stokowski, Roger Allam

Why this movie was made is sort of beyond me. I can't speak for the novel, but the film appears to be attempting to do justice to a novel, but it can't quite manage. The film begins with a voice-over. The voice speaking to us is Death! I mean, it is such a contrivance, but I think perhaps such a thing might work in a novel. In a film it seems so phoney! Any time Death started to talk I tuned out. Also, the voice-over hadn't really figured out what Death actually took from the people as they died. Like, who is this Death guy and what materially happens when he encounters human life? At one point he refers to taking the "soul" of someone who dies. Death takes souls now? I would've been confused if I had actually cared. The acting is fine in this film, but there is no real point to the thing. Good Germans take in a Communist refugee girl. They hide a Jewish man in their basement. She learns to read, and more importantly (and if you didn't think what I've said so far was clichéd enough, get ready) she learns the power of storytelling. Storytelling "keeps her brother alive" when he is in a coma and brings him back from the dead. Storytelling allows her and the other villagers to get through the end of the war. Storytelling allows her to make a living after WWII. All of this is good and well, but if we might examine reality for a brief moment, we might remember that "storytelling" makes all of these things possible because the entire thing was written by a novelist and then by a screenwriter who are telling a story themselves. I don't mean to get all meta on you all, but when storytelling saves lives, it generally only does so inside someone's story. And if storytelling gets people through things it is because the storyteller herself is invested in the value of story. Whenever "storytelling" solves problems inside a story, I always feel vaguely as though I am being had. Now, I've gone and talked this whole time about my problems with the movie and I haven't talked about John Williams' annual nomination. It's a shame that this is here because the scores to 12 Years a Slave and The Kings of Summer could easily have appeared here, but instead the music branch nominates John Williams for the umpteenth time. Sure, the score is pretty, but, like... there is other good stuff out there.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #70 out of 80

Saving Mr. Banks
1 Nomination
  • Original Score: Thomas Newman (Skyfall, WALL·E, The Good German, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Finding Nemo, Road to Perdition, American Beauty, Unstrung Heroes, Little Women, The Shawshank Redemption)
Cast: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Annie Rose Buckley, Colin Farrel, Ruth Wilson, Paul Giamatti, Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman, B.J. Novak, Melanie Paxson, Kathy Baker, Rachel Griffiths

I was only so-so on this picture, and couldn't understand why everyone was talking about it or about Emma Thompson in it. Thompson was considered a sure thing as a Best Actress nominee this year, but all the talk amounted to nothing, and the film ended up with only one nomination. The whole thing is quite surprising. It seemed like it was going to get nominations in Costume Design and possibly Adapted Screenplay, as well. Lots of things seemed possible, in fact, including a Best Picture nomination, but one nomination is almost nothing. If people liked Saving Mr. Banks, then (and I think it is fair to say that many did), it wasn't ever anyone's favorite in any category except Score. Newman has never won, and he won't win again this year, but this is his twelfth nomination, and he will have to win soon.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #59 out of 80

10 February 2014

Oscar Nominees 2014: Part 7 of 14

The Lone Ranger
2 Nominations
  • Visual Effects
  • Makeup
Director: Gore Verbinski
Cast: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner, Ruth Wilson, Bryant Prince, James Badge Dale, Helena Bonham Carter, Barry Pepper, Saginaw Grant, James Frain

I was too drunk actually to remember what happened in this hot mess of racism, makeup, and visual effects. Just know that I thought it was basically Rango with humans. And I hated Rango. Apparently, however, the Academy kind of loves Gore Verbinski, and they still love Johnny Depp even though he only makes terrible movies these days. Still, The Lone Ranger, is a new low, and the nominations for this film were a bit of a surprise to me. If you're going to nominate a good effects-driven film, why not Elysium or Pacific Rim? I mean, those movies are actually good. The parts I liked about this movie were probably the costume design, which was fun, and the score, which used Giacchino Rossini's music too much to be eligible for Academy consideration. Ah well. In any case, The Lone Ranger won't be winning any Oscars. Trust that.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #74 out of 80

Before Midnight
1 Nomination
  • Adapted Screenplay: Julie Delpy (Before Sunset) & Ethan Hawke (Before Sunset) & Richard Linklater (Before Sunset)
Director: Linklater
Cast: Delpy, Hawke, Walter Lassally, Athina Rachel Tsangari, Panos Koronis, Yannis Papadopoulos, Ariane Labed, Xenia Kalogeropoulou

This film is brilliant. One of my favorites of the year. I still do not understand why this goes in the Adapted Screenplay category. The script is not at all adapted from anything. It makes no sense. But this film deserves every accolade it gets. It is a film about talking, about talking through the difficult periods in the life of a couple. And this couple fights and says unforgivable things, and then they forgive. It is an extraordinary portrait of love and disappointment and loss and (I can't believe I'm about to say this) heterosexuality. But it is a kind of interrogated heterosexuality. One that actively wonders about gender dynamics and feminism and expectations. It is an extraordinary picture. Beautifully filmed, beautifully acted, and shot in Greece, so, well, there's that. Could this win its big award? Looks unlikely, but it would be awesome if it did.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: Adapted Screenplay
My Rating: #8 out of 80

1 Nomination
  • Cinematography: Roger Deakins (Skyfall, True Grit, The Reader, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, No Country for Old Men, The Man Who Wasn't There, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Kundun, Fargo, The Shawshank Redemption)
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, Paul Dano, Melissa Leo, Dylan Minnette, Wayne Duval, Len Cariou, David Dastmalchian

Roger Deakins is so good! And, actually, so is this movie. I didn't really care for Villeneuve's last movie, the Foreign-Language-Picture-nominated Incendies, but this one is a tight, dangerous crime thriller in the vein of David Fincher's Zodiac. Villeneuve kept me guessing the entire time. Jake Gyllenhaal is also really, really great in Prisoners. He is just playing a detective, so it looks like rather an easy role, but Gyllenhaal fleshes his character out in all kinds of interesting ways – the acting is not this good across the board: Viola Davis is excellent, but Howard and Jackman are just playing "good father" to the hilt. Still, even with Jackman's overacting, Prisoners is really, really scary. I spent most of the film wondering who the kidnappers were, who was going to betray whom, and squirming in my seat as I worried about characters getting caught or maimed or killed or whatever. This is a really excellent watch. My roommate and I both double-checked the locks on our doors after this one. Good stuff.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #22 out of 80

09 February 2014

Oscar Nominees 2014: Part 6 of 14

Despicable Me 2
2 Nominations
  • Animated Feature
  • Original Song: Pharrell Williams
Cast: Steve Carrell, Kristin Wiig, Russell Brand, Benjamin Bratt, Steve Coogan, Miranda Cosgrove, Elsie Fisher, Dana Gaier, Ken Jeong

I did not care for the first Despicable Me, and much of the charm of this second one is lost on me as well. The film's main gags involve beating its characters to a pulp without them getting injured – this bit of humor is at its most egregious when Gru goes on a date with a rude young woman who is then tranquilized and tied to the top of a car and thrown around like a giant sack of potatoes. Still, #2 does feature a few laugh-out-loud moments, and Steve Carrell is very charming. Even more importantly, Benjamin Bratt is absolutely excellent in this. He plays two characters and both are a blast (and there is a nice shout-out to Stanley Kubrick in one of his sequences). The music in Despicable Me 2 is its best feature, though, and the film is filled with great original songs by Pharrell Williams – who is A.) everywhere these days and B.) kind of genius. His song "Happy" is so catchy, and so much fun, that I am starting to think it is the only contender that might be able to beat Frozen's song "Let It Go". The awesome music videos out right now for "Happy" (there is an official one here and then there is the 24-hour version) definitely up its chances. But in the end I don't really expect it to win.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: Original Song
My Rating: #60 out of 79

The Great Gatsby
2 Nominations
  • Production Design: Beverley Dunn & Catherine Martin (Moulin Rouge!, Romeo + Juliet)
  • Costume Design: Catherine Martin (Australia, Moulin Rouge!)
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Leonard DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki, Jason Clarke, Isla Fisher, Amitabh Bachchan

If only this film had been a film only about parties. Alas, it purports to be a film with a storyline, and worse! It purports to be a film version of one of the great USAmerican novels. It is neither of these things. Instead it is an enormous, opulent, cartoon version of a real story. And it has some awesome party sequences. But this film is not without merit: Catherine Martin will deserve her second Costume Design Oscar when she wins on March 2. It will be, in fact, well deserved. The entire film feels like it was simply an excuse for Martin to design the gorgeous frocks and suits she made for this movie. I was less sold on the production design - it often looks as cartoony as the acting, personally, but I see why it has shown up here, as well. There was a film version of Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby made this year, but it is called The Great Beauty not The Great Gatsby. My advice, if you're thinking of seeing Baz Luhrmann's mess of a film? Go see Paolo Sorrentino's version.
Will Win: Costume Design
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #71 out of 79

Lone Survivor
2 Nominations
  • Sound Mixing
  • Sound Effects Editing
Director: Peter Berg
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch, Alexander Ludwig, Eric Bana, Yousef Azami, Ali Suliman, Dan Bilzerian

The National Board of Review named Lone Survivor one of the ten best films of the year. No one else seemed to notice. I've posted about my problems with the movie already, so I won't go into that. I just want to say that while these nominations might've seemed to come out of nowhere, they really didn't. All of the critics groups saw this and many respected it, as the National Board of Review mention indicates. And the film really is technically awesome, especially in the sound department. These guys end up falling down some difficult cliffs at one point, and it is actively wince-inducing, as the audience can hear the crunching of bones. It is pretty great stuff. As film theorist Stephen Prince has argued in his book on violence in classical film, the sound information we receive as we watch a film is directly related to our empathy for the person suffering violence. Sounds of anguish or pain have been directly censored (silenced) by the MPAA, because they make violence more difficult for an audience to watch. The sounds in Lone Survivor, then, do their job, asking for the audience to empathize with the four men who get surrounded by men who wish to kill them. These sounds of agony go away, of course, as the helicopters swoop in and the full might of the U.S. military is felt, but the sound work is very, very good. (Not that this film can beat Gravity for either of its awards, because it cannot.)
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #67 out of 79

05 February 2014

From Cities of the Plain

Some beautiful stuff from chapter one of Sodome et Gomorrhe:

Even when one is no longer interested in things, it is still something to have been interested in them; because it was always for reasons which other people did not grasp. The memory of those sentiments is, we feel, to be found only in ourselves; we must go back into ourselves to study it. You mustn’t laugh at this idealistic jargon, what I mean to say is that I have been very fond of life and very fond of art. Very well! Now that I am a little too weary to live with other people, those old sentiments, so personal and individual, that I felt in the past, seem to me—it is the mania of all collectors—very precious. I open my heart to myself like a sort of showcase, and examine one by one ever so many love affairs of which the rest of the world can have known nothing. And of this collection, to which I am now even more attached than to my others, I say to myself, rather as Mazarin said of his library, but still without any keen regret, that it will be very tiresome to have to leave it all.

I loved Swann very much in the first volume of À la Recherche, but I think, perhaps, I love him even more in this one.

Oscar Nominees 2014: Part 5 of 14

2 Nominations
  • Animated Feature
  • Original Song: Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez
Cast: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, Maia Wilson, Alan Tudyk, Ciarán Hinds

This is cute and good for all sorts of reasons. I wasn't quite as crazy about the nominated song "Let It Go" as I was about some of the film's other songs – "Fixer Upper", for example, or my personal favorite "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" – but the song is as wildly popular as the film, and the Academy, I am sure, will love to have Broadway star Idina Menzel belting the hell out of it at the Oscar ceremony on March 2nd. It's going to win, too. In fact, there would appear to be almost no competition for either of the awards for which Frozen is nominated. Although Brave taking this award last year was a big surprise to me, so maybe I just don't have my finger on the pulse of what other adults are looking for when they watch an animated film. In any case, if Frozen does win, it will mean two years of girl-power. And that's something we can all get excited about, particularly because Frozen's version of girl-power, is way, way cooler than Brave's.
Will Win: Animated Feature, Song
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #41 out of 77

The Grandmaster (一代宗師)
2 Nominations
  • Cinematography: Philippe Le Sourd
  • Costume Design: William Chang Suk Ping
Director: Wong Kar-wai
Cast: Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Zhang Ziyi, Zhang Jin, Chang Chen, Yuen Woo-Ping, Wang Qingxiang, Le Cung, Song, Hye-kyo, Zhao Benshan, Lau Ga-yung, Lau Shun, Xiaoshenyang

I really love Wong Kar-wai. At least, I used to. This movie made me, more than anything else, want to watch his earlier stuff: especially Days of Being Wild. (I've watched In the Mood for Love more times than I can actually count. It's incredible.) The Grandmaster – or in another translation The Grandmasters – moves in super slow-motion, but it isn't interested in the nuance of feeling or difficult emotional terrain of Wong's other movies. Actually, it might be interested in those things, but it is executed differently; the story is told in a strange sequential order and with an odd way of focusing on what it is doing. I was, quite frankly, a little bored. But I will tell you, this film is shot gorgeously. It most definitely deserved both of these nominations. It won't win either award, but I am glad that the Academy recognized this film for its exceptional artistry. Now, where's my copy of Chungking Express?
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #55 out of 77

Inside Llewyn Davis
2 Nominations
  • Cinematography: Bruno Delbonnel (Harry Potter and Half-blood Prince, Un Long Dimanche de Fiançailles [A Very Long Engagement], Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain [Amélie])
  • Sound Mixing
Director: Joel & Ethan Coen
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, Max Casella, Adam Driver, Stark Sands, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, Ethan Phillips, Robin Bartlett, F. Murray Abraham, Jeanine Serralles

I reviewed this film at length here. A lot of people were surprised at how relatively poorly Llewyn did when the nominations came out. I can't say I was too shocked, but I did sort of expect it to get a Best Picture nod. I mean, A Serious Man was nominated for Best Picture! In any case, I think this film will be remembered as a very very good Coen Brothers picture, not the minor Coen Brothers picture it is being called right now. And while we're talking about them: how 'bout them Coens, man? I mean, every time they make a movie it's just really, really good. A Coen Brothers film is an important event. And just try to rank them in your mind. What goes at the top? Miller's Crossing? Blood Simple.? Fargo? Barton Fink? No Country for Old Men? The Hudsucker Proxy? These are superb movies. Anyway, let's all just close our eyes and try not to notice that Inside Llewyn Davis won't be winning any awards this Oscar night. Close your eyes and be grateful that Oscar Isaac will be getting a lot of work in the next three years.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: Sound Mixing
My Rating: #19 out of 77

03 February 2014

Iron Man 1999

Julie and I get drunk and watch movies.
 * * * * *
Aaron: Ooo Iron Man 3.
Julie: Oooh. Indeed. God, I already hate smug Robert Downey Jr. Also they are playing the Blue Song. Seriously?
Aaron: It's the 1990s!
Julie: Ok, quick: remind me what happened in the first 2 films.
Aaron: Um. He is a playboy
Julie: He looks like AJ McLean from the Backstreet Boys.
Aaron: And his dad is like an aircraft designer? Guy Pearce looks a mess.
Julie: Oh, shit, that's Guy? Not a good look, dude. Where has he been, by the way?
Aaron: He's getting paid.
Julie: He was so great… before.
Aaron: He was in a movie last year. Under a lot of age makeup, remember?
Julie: He was? What movie?
Aaron: Prometheus!
Julie: Oh yeah. I like to forget that one. Oh my god, seriously, those glasses and goatee: a Backstreet Boy.
Aaron: Oooo visual effects!
Julie: Wait, are the other two movies also in the '90s? I didn't know this was a period film.
Aaron: No. The other movies take place in the present.
Julie: I missed the visual effects. This is going to be just like The Lone Ranger.
Aaron: Except I am going to be much more drunk.
Julie: Are you drinking beer? What is happening over there?
Aaron: I am having a delicious Peak Organic Black IPA.
Julie: Oh, Nice. Keep me updated on your drunk status. I will try valiantly to keep up.
Aaron: I think in the last movie somebody took the technology he uses to keep himself alive. He has some kind of titanium thing in his chest that allows him to live and not have cancer or something. I can't remember.
Julie: I kind of wish we were watching The Transformers. I really like those movies. So then how is he alive?
Aaron: Well he got it back, obviously.
Julie: Why are we listening to Jingle Bells?
Aaron: I don't know. Did this come out at xmas?
Julie: I was just about to ask that. Haha. A holiday film!

Aaron: This is cool.
Julie: Are you being sarcastic? Because it is decidedly lame.

Aaron: Oh no! Muslim Terrorists?
Julie: Oh my god. Are you kidding me!?
Aaron: Is this going to be crazy racist?
Julie: I CAN'T.
Aaron: I think this might already be more racist than The Lone Ranger.
Julie: Who is that white man with the beard?
Aaron: Who is this actor? Ben Kingsley?
Julie: OMG IT IS. What is he doing with his life??
Aaron: He should be ashamed of himself. He isn't even an Arab!
Julie: Gotta get paid, just like Guy, right?
Aaron: What a strange sequence!
Julie: I literally cannot believe an Iron Man movie is trying to be political. Ugh. This is even worse than we expected it to be. Don Cheadle! Oh my god, why are all these people slumming?
Aaron: In the first movie this character was played by Terrence Howard. But Cheadle was in the last one.
Julie: Oh. Hahaha. I told you I don't remember the other two movies. What happened to Terrence? Is he going to show up? I can't believe you remember anything that happened in the other movies. Hero.
Aaron: No no. Terrence got fired. And Don Cheadle has the part now.
Julie: Oh. Because he's an asshole?
Aaron: He asked for more money.
Julie: Hahahaha. As he should.

Julie: That is a white suit, girl.
Aaron: She looks fabulous.
Julie: I hate her.
Aaron: We've talked about this before.
Julie: That's all I'm gonna say.
Aaron: Why is she saying he looks great? He doesn't actually look great.
Julie: He looks better than before.
Aaron: I'm kind of into these effects. I'm kind of not into these jokes.
Julie: They remind me of Avatar. All that teal.
Aaron: I think that's a good thing. I loved Avatar.
Julie: Ugh. Aaron. I cannot even talk to you right now. (How many beers have you had?)

Aaron: Who remembers conferences? How could he possibly remember he was in Switzerland in 1999. I do not understand action movies that have no action. This was the problem with Lone Ranger too. Like, can something please blow up?
Julie: Because they are pretending that they aren't "just" action movies. They are deeper than that, Aaron. There are terrorists! More xmas music.
Aaron: They're drinking Beaujolais but it's white.
Julie: Wine snob.
Aaron: What's snobby? I'm noticing details.
Julie: The Iron Man audiences aren't going to give a shit. Maybe if it was Bud Light and looked like a Guinness.

Aaron: Poor Iron Man! He's cracking up! But the film moved the act three monologue into act one. I don't understand the structure of this. Guy Pearce is the villain, right? But, like, where's the plot?
Julie: I don't understand why you're just trying to critique anything other than the visual effects. I'm not sure the plot has really been revealed.
Aaron: Oooo! That's cool. This is Mary Shelley, right? [The Frankenstein theme I noticed at this point is not elaborated by Shane Black & co.]
Julie: Um? I'm so distracted by his 1999 hair and facial hair. It is so bad. Also I just polished off a bag of popcorn. And I'm still hungry.
Aaron: Already?
Julie: I should've bought Cheez-its. Sigh.
Aaron: Thank goodness. Some action.
Julie: Oooh that red demon face was cool.
Aaron: It was! But is he a robot or...? Are they replicants or something like that?
Julie: This feels very Terminator.
Aaron: Well, I am grateful for it.
Julie: Here's the terrorists again. Please note that Ben pronounces it "Amurrican".
Aaron: That is my favorite part of this movie so far.
Julie: Ben's funky accent?
Aaron: No. The pronunciation of "Amurrican".
Julie: I love a good Downton Abbey reference! Also, I just finished my first beer. We have nearly 2 hours left.
Aaron: Downey's facial hair is exactly like a Backstreet Boy.
Mr. McLean
Julie: Thank You. And my favorite Backstreet Boy. But it looks better on AJ. More effects. Isn't this Minority Report?
Aaron: Haha. No. This is just like the other 2 Iron Mans.
Julie: But they both came after Minority Report. I feel that I am right.
Aaron: True enough. I love Minority Report.
Julie: Me too. I should rewatch it. Tom pre-crazy.
Aaron: It was just latent. He was already crazy.
Julie: Hahahaha. Aw. Poor Tom. Aaron, I am already drunk. This is a problem.
Aaron: You're a mess!
Julie: You told me to get drunk!
Aaron: I did.

Julie: Who is this woman? This actress, I mean.
Aaron: Oh it's Rebecca Hall!
Julie: Ohhhhhhh
Aaron: You know she's Sir Peter Hall's daughter?
Julie: Oh! I did not.
Aaron: I saw her in a production of As You Like It once.
Julie: Omigod Gwynnie is in the robot suit.
Aaron: She was good. Her father directed. The show itself was unforgivably painful.
Julie: Most Shakespeare is.
Aaron: Ooo we are truth telling. You are Meryl Streep in August Osage right now.
Julie: Oh I hope not. I did not care for Meryl in that one
Aaron: All of this exploding is delightful.
Julie: Yep, here's all your action.
Aaron: These terrorists are trying to kill Christmas! Did you see them set fire to that Holiday tree?
Julie: Hahahaha. They're incorrigible
Aaron: I think this deserves its nomination just based on this sequence.
Julie: I guess I just don't get into these kinds of effects. It's just all so silly to me.
Aaron: I am not enjoying myself.
Julie: That means you need to drink more.
Aaron: I'm just impressed by the actual, you know, technical skill that this took. So the terrorists are going to turn out to be actual USAmericans, right?
Julie: Is that what his terrible accent implied?
Aaron: I dunno. Just guessin'. Will there be a couple of cameos of other Avengers in this?
Julie: Can Sam Jackson please show up?
Aaron: Oh dear Heavens I hope so.
Julie: Wasn't he in one of these though?
Aaron: The last one, I think. Remember, um, the girl from Her was in it. You know, I miss Jude Law. Where is he these days?
Julie: Oh, no you don't. He was in that Side Effects mess.
Aaron: Oooo. I haven't seen it yet. I'm gonna see that soon.
Julie: Also, why are we talking about Jude Law?
Aaron: He is the OS that Downey keeps calling "Jarvis". [Clearly this is Paul Bettany, and I can't recognize my thin British actors.]
Julie: Sam Jackson was in Iron Man 2!!!!!!
Aaron: Yeah.
Julie: Does that mean he'll show up? Or is he dead?
Aaron: SLJ? No.
Julie: Do we really need a small child in this?
Aaron: Children are the future.
Julie: Teach them well and let them lead the way.
Aaron: Haven't you read your Lee Edelman? This child is from 1999.
Julie: Yes… he looks like someone... The kid from The Flight of the Navigator? No, not like him, never mind.
Aaron: He just said "Dads leave. No need to be a pussy about it." Really??
Julie: Charming.
Aaron: Misogynist and unnecessary.
Julie: This is a movie about straight men for straight men. What do you expect?
Aaron: It's not for straight men; it's for young boys, right? So the film is actively policing the masculinity of adolescent boys? Thanks a lot.
Julie: No, it's for teenagers and adult men. Straight guys love this shit. Also, why is her name Pepper? That is ridiculous.
Aaron: She's a comic book. I have no idea. I am just sort of happy that two women spent more than 10 seconds talking about something other than a man.
Julie: Ooh, Bechdel Test. Check.
Aaron: Not much else to be happy about.
Julie: But why do famous actresses want to be in movies like this? I don't get it.
Aaron: I don't either. Money?
Julie: I guess. But Gwynnie's got plenty of that.

Aaron: What did I tell you?!
Julie: What - is he actually an American? Did I miss it?
Aaron: Dora the Explorer just made a cameo. Product placement.
Julie: Amazing.
Aaron: I like this small white Tennessean child
Julie: I want to punch him.
Aaron: I think he's funny. He's like a sassy sidekick.
Julie: That's because you're drunk.
Aaron: He's like the donkey in Mulan. Dale Dickey! I love this actress. I am so glad she's getting work.
Julie: Donkey? You mean dragon?
Aaron: Omigod. Dragon. All black people look the same.
Julie: Oh god, Aaron.

Julie: That wig is terrible on that lady. Or is that her actual hair? Ah, she's a demon. It's demon hair.
Aaron: Oh, so when Pepper said that Guy Pearce could weaponize people she was explaining the plot.
Julie: She said that? Hmm. Also this action sequence is fun.
Aaron: Very! I like this actress.
Julie: The demon actress? "I've dated hotter chicks than you?"Ugh. 
Aaron: Then she undercuts it! "That's all you got? A cheap trick and a cheesy one-liner?" So much xmas!
Julie: I know, right?
Aaron: The terrorists hate the baby jesus.
Julie: Well, we have that in common.
Aaron: Julie!
Julie: Aaron! You don't love baby J any more than I do.
Aaron: Neither does Lee Edelman.
Julie: I have no idea who this Lee person is.
Aaron: You're not up on your queer theory?
Julie: Well, you know I read it in my copious spare time and all.
Aaron: You are the busiest woman in the United States, girl. Apologies. No joke.
Julie: Haha. I'm sure.

Julie: Amurrrrrica. Haha. He is milking it. Ah. Is Don Cheadle ever coming back? What was the point of his 2 min?
Aaron: Hahaha. Why are you thinking about him?
Julie: I'm trying to entertain myself (I am currently watching his HBO show, House of Lies, which I enjoy him in).
Aaron: Here he is!!!! How weird.
Julie: Speak of the devil. Ah, half naked women. Of course.
Aaron: We are now in the Miss Chattanooga Christmas Pageant. Of course. This is so blatantly misogynist.
Julie: Ah! It's the guy from The Mindy Project! I think.
Aaron: Did you like that single cheesecake shot in Star Trek: into Darkness?
Julie: Cheesecake? You know I turned that mess off. I did not watch it all.
Aaron: Julie? Where is your dedication?
Julie: I have lost it. This year is terrible. I quit The Hobbit too.
Aaron: I think this year is great.
Julie: You are wrong. Every other year was great. Last year was great. So this year is bad.
Aaron: So many great films. Not nominated for Oscars.
Julie: OK, but that is not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the 57 Oscar-nominated films I had/have to watch.

Julie: Back to the movie at hand: I kind of love when it verges on horror.

Aaron: You love a horror movie.
Julie: I do. I wish a horror movie would be nominated. That would be so much more fun than this super hero shit.
Aaron: How long has it been since a horror movie has been nominated for something?
Julie: Silence of the Lambs? (Which I don't even consider a horror movie, really.)
Aaron: That was 20 years ago!
Julie: Well. People don't take horror seriously. Because most of it is crap. But it's fun crap! Sleepy Hollow. Sweeney Todd.
Aaron: Don Cheadle just quoted whatshisname: Charlton Heston.
Julie: I missed it. I was googling Oscar-nominated horror movies.
Aaron: He said "If you want this suit you're gonna have to pry it from my cold dead body." Robert Downey Jr. is like acting in this.

Julie: The screenwriter probably didn't think he was quoting anything. He probably thought he was the genius that made that line up.
Aaron: Sleepy Hollow. That was a fun horror movie.
Julie: I remember not liking it, actually.
Aaron: I can't remember. That was in, like, 1999.
Julie: Misery. That was a good one. Kathy Bates was nominated.
Aaron: Oh yeah! She is awesome in that.
Julie: That was a year before Silence of the Lambs. Those were the last two good horror movies nominated. Sad. This movie is feeling very Bond right now.
Aaron: Ok, but District 9 sort of, right? I mean, that movie was gross.
Julie: Nah, that's Sci-Fi
Aaron: Not a horror movie, obvs.
Julie: Some Sci-Fi can be horror. Like Alien and Predator.
Aaron: Hollow Man?
Julie: I don't know that one!
Aaron: With Kevin Bacon. He turns invisible. It's good!
Julie: Oh yes. I remember now. That is horror. But not good horror.
Aaron: 2000, I think.
Julie: I love me some Bacon though. The Following, his new show, has horror moments. It's great fun.
Oh my god, Ben is British!
Aaron: He's kind of great right now.
Julie: Hahaha, yeah, he is. (On a side note: Ethan Hawke is totally into doing horror, which I love. It's nice when legit actors get in on it.)
Aaron: I am loving Ben Kingsley right now. What is Ethan Hawke doing?
Mr. Hawke in Sinister
Julie: The Purge, Sinister.
Aaron: Are these films?
Julie: Yes. Very recent, in the last few years. The Purge was last summer.
Aaron: Oh. Cool.
Julie: I mean, it wasn't good. But I appreciate his being so game to do that kind of thing.
Aaron: Did you miss the part where Rebecca Hall turned out to be a baddie?
Julie: Holy shit! She did! You can't let me go on and on about horror like that. I get carried away.
Aaron: I do not understand your love for horror. But I sort of approve.
Julie: Ha! "Sort of approve"? What does that mean?
Aaron: I mean, I watched them with you a lot of times, so I approved enough. Oh, wait. Rebecca Hall isn't a baddie. She's complex. She's a turncoat. She will betray Guy Pearce in the end.
Julie: You watched Teeth with me. I think that was it. I think you're right about Becky.
Aaron: No. We saw Rosemary's Baby together. And Poltergeist. And The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
Julie: We did? But I had already seen those. Were they your first times? Oh yes that Cabinet mess.
Aaron: Yes! [We are talking about the 2005 remake so don't get angry at us.]
Julie: Oh! It was a teaching moment then! That's fun. Bringing you into the horror. Didn't Ruth come over for these? We had like a horror movie club for like a hot second, right?

Aaron: Are they gonna kill off Pepper Pots?
Julie: I hope so.
Aaron: Not just Ruth! Herman, Becky. A whole buncha folks.
Julie: I remember Herman not enjoying Teeth. Haha.
Aaron: He was wrong. Teeth was awesome. And campy.
Julie: So awesome. I own it on DVD now, y'know. I like to revisit it from time to time.
Aaron: Hahaha. Sadist.
Julie: :D

Aaron: That guy just breathed fire! I want to be him.
Julie: Don Cheadle is kicking ass! Or he was, for a moment.
Aaron: He kicked ass for one second.
Julie: But it was a great second.
Don Cheadle's biceps
Aaron: It was. At least this Iron Man has more than just punching.
Julie: Truth.
Aaron: There are good, cool, technologies for killing people in this one. The last one was like Real Steel with people inside.
Julie: I don't know why we didn't drunk-watch Real Steel.
Aaron: Didn't we?
Julie: Hahaha, no. But you were probably drunk when you watched it, I'm guessing.
Aaron: Thanks, Hercule Poirot. More girls in bathing suits.
Julie: Why are girls in sequined bikinis playing ping pong? Is Ben drinking Budweiser? So Amurrrrican.
Aaron: For the teenage boys in the audience. Ben Kingsley is so good.
Julie: His accent is making this film.
Aaron: I take back everything I said at the beginning of this movie.
Julie: Well, not everything.
Aaron: Well, everything about Sir Ben.
Julie: Fair. Would the vice president really be talking on an unsecured line like that? President or Pepper? Who to save, who to save???
Aaron: He's a baddie. It's part of the plot.
Julie: Also, what was with the kid in the wheel chair? Was that shot necessary?
Aaron: He is, like, in support of the technologies that make fake bodies. You know, redoing DNA. That's how they got to him. He has a disabled daughter.
Julie: Oh. Good lord, I have not been paying attention to anything.
Aaron: That makes him vulnerable. Yeah, Guy Pearce chose soldiers who had lost limbs and shit. They joined up so that they could regrow their limbs and become awesome fighting machines.
Julie: Fascinating. It's like a whole new movie.
Aaron: This actor is cute. If I were into white frat guys.
Julie: Indeed. Been there, done that. No thank you. :)
Aaron: Indeed. I like when British people say "thirteen" USAmericans always say "thirt-teen,"but Brits say "thirteen." pronouncing the t only once.
Julie: You are such a grammar nazi. Also I don't understand this barrel of monkeys thing happening.
Aaron: This is absurd.
Julie: No joke.
Aaron: Iron Man just got hit by a car.
Julie: But it wasn't really him so it's OK.
Aaron: I didn't see that coming. I must admit.
Julie: Me neither.
Aaron: I have to pee. Can we pause?
Julie: I peed without pausing.
Aaron: You did? How drunk are you?
Julie: I am only nearly done with my second beer.
Aaron: That is absurd. I have had 3 IPAs.
Julie: Holy shit!
Aaron: I'm drunk, girl.
Julie: Well, you need to be. But you will be feeling it tomorrow.
Aaron: Don Cheadle just joined this as an actual supporting character. I am delighted.
Julie: I know, but he was literally not in like 1/3 of the movie. So weird.

Aaron: I'm confused....
Julie: What's new?
Aaron: Robots punching people. Fucking PG13 movies. I can't bear it. I am opening a 4th IPA.
Julie: This movie is turning into Transformers! I like it.
Aaron: I wish it were. I like those bad movies.
Julie: I finished my second beer. I am done. As I am done with this movie.
Aaron: He just said "dinner." I'm hungry.
Julie: I ate a bag of popcorn and a bowl of pretzels. I am done with that, too. Guy Pearce is calling Robert a turtle. What is happening?
Aaron: I need some dim sum.
Julie: Do they even have that in Tallahassee?
Aaron: I was dreaming I was back in Los Angeles. Don Cheadle! Biceps!
Julie: He's a badass, remember?
Aaron: He's great. And his polo isn't even dirty!
Julie: Superstar. Why is Gwynnie half naked?
Aaron: Fanboys? That shit is offensive.
Julie: He didn't catch her.
Aaron: She looks great, though.
Julie: He is terrible at life.
Aaron: Maybe Don Cheadle caught her!
Julie: Oh, right. I'm sure he did. Guy just said "I would've caught her." Burn.
Aaron: Literally. He's, like, made of fire.
Julie: Hahaha.
Aaron: Guy pearce without a shirt. Finally. I've waited 2 hours for that.
Julie: Yeah, why have all the men been fully clothed this entire time? I want to see some abs.
Aaron: No abs. It's all digital.
Julie: They could've made some digital abs. Lame.
Aaron: The real star of this movie: Jarvis, the OS. He and ScarJo from Her should totes date.
Julie: I knew you were going to go there. Haha.
Aaron: I love a romance.
Julie: Guy just got creamed by Pepper!
Aaron: Pepper Hots!
Julie: She is terrifying.
Aaron: Seriously. This is cool.
Julie: "Who's the hot mess now?" she asks.
Aaron: Hahaha.
Julie: The answer is, obviously, this movie.
Aaron: There are the abs. Gwyneth's abs are awesome.

Aaron: His facial hair. What the fuck. Why does he look like that?
Julie: He is trying to regain his youth? Or something? What happened to Cheadle?
Aaron: This movie, like The Lone Ranger, hates technology. Why is there so much fear about technology? This. Facial. Hair. How does he even do that?
Julie: I literally cannot focus on anything else. TN kid!
Aaron: Zzzzzz. Surrogate dad.
Julie: What? You liked him. A lot.
Aaron: Not that I have anything against surrogate fatherhood. Wait, so, like, Iron Man is done?
Julie: What did he just throw into the ocean? I don't believe it.
Aaron: His power source thing.
Julie: (I don't think we're supposed to believe it.) I AM IRON MAN. BOOM!
Aaron: But how is he Iron Man if he's not, like, BIONIC?
Julie: Because it's in his soul, Aaron. What are these credits? I'm getting nauseous.
Aaron: Reliving the best moments of the film? It's like a play by Ken Ludwig.
Julie: Hahaha.

Aaron: This score is reminiscent of James Bond now. Right?
Julie: Yes. This film was trying to be a Bond film.
Aaron: You called it. Miguel Ferrer, the guy who played the Vice President: Is he somehow related to José Ferrer?
Miguel Ferrer in the original RoboCop.
It seemed important.
Julie: I don't know, but speaking of Mulan, he was the voice of Shan-Yu. So there's that. But let's get down to business. This mess is not winning anything. I mean, it was only nominated for one thing, and it doesn't have a shot in hell.
Aaron: No. Obviously not. He is José Ferrer's son. For the record.
Julie: I am glad you figured that out. for your own sense of mind.
Aaron: Did the other Iron Mans win anything? Sense of mind? I thought I was the drunk one.
Julie: Negative.
Aaron: Well then this one is out for sure. Gravity has Visual Effects in the bag.
Julie: Yes. I don't think there is a technical category that it doesn't have in the bag.
Aaron: For real. Well, Production Design. I am disappointed no other Avengers were in this.
Julie: Oh yeah. I said Gatsby would win that. Though now I'm not so sure.
Aaron: I was waiting for Loki or Thor or, you know, the Hulk or something.
Julie: I am really disappointed Sam didn't show up.
Aaron: 12 Years wins Production Design. As part of a larger 12 Years resurgence.
Julie: Haha. Yeah, ok. You are cracked.
Aaron: Skeptic. The other options are Her or Hustle.
Julie: Well, I would like Her to win, but it won't. And honestly, Gatsby's design was pretty amazing.
What is this aural button? Oh. there he is. Mark Ruffalo!
Aaron: The Hulk. Finally.
Julie: Of all the super heroes in all the world.
Aaron: There were supposed to be laughs in there, right? Why am I not charmed by this?
Julie: No. But the teenage boys are supposed to be.
Aaron: What is the eroticism of these teenage boys toward Tony Stark? This is some kind of desiring machine.
Julie: Well they want to be him. That's all. Are you there? Or did you pass out after the 4th IPA?
Aaron: Don't make this less homoerotic than it is. Sorry. I was talking to one of my sons. He's watching Blue Jasmine.
Julie: Focus!
Aaron: Sorry.

Julie: Is there anything else we really need to say about this?
Aaron: Why do the buttons of these films always disappoint?
Julie: Because buttons inherently disappoint. They are always stupid.
Aaron: But the whole point of a button is anricipation of something.
Talk to the hand, guuurl.
Julie: Anricipation?
Aaron: Built into the concept of the button is build-up. So the point of the button is to deliver on this anticipation/anricipation.
Julie: Well, there is obviously going to be a 4th film.
Aaron: I see dollar signs. Like Haley Joel Osment sees dead people.
Julie: Oh dear.
Aaron: I also see IPA.
Julie: Hahaha. Too much of it, methinks. I am le tired.
Aaron: Never.
Julie: It may be bed time.
Aaron: I am at home. I don't need to drive. And I haven't texted any ex boyfriends. I am going to chalk this up as a victory.
Julie: Well, color me impressed!
Aaron: Hahaha. Alright. XO.
Julie: Til next time!
Aaron: OK. Love and kisses and pepper and pots.
Julie: Haha. Same to you. G'night!
Aaron: Night.